Of course, the travelling live production of the musical comedy TV show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (CExG) started out by playing with my expectations of the night’s proceedings. Going into the Washington, D.C. venue, I thought for sure that the performance would open with “West Covina,” the first song ever performed on the show.
It’s the perfect way to encapsulate the show, a slightly manic song centered around the protagonist’s obsession over her childhood boyfriend and her subsequent denial of that obsession, and it seemed hard to imagine that the performance would open with any other song.
Instead, the cast opened with “Where’s Rebecca Bunch” — the opening to the show’s recently completed third season — and it wasn’t until Rachel Bloom, CExG’s lead performer, took the stage that they burst into a short reprise of the song that I had been expecting.
What other way could they start a performance of the musical from a show dedicated to subverting our expectations of a romantic comedy and exposing the nuanced reality of the character stereotypes born from films like She’s All That and Love, Actually?
If you haven’t seen the show (which you definitely should, especially since all three seasons are currently available on Netflix) it focuses on Rebecca Bunch (Bloom), a hotshot lawyer in New York City with a mental illness who moves to West Covina, Calif. after a chance encounter with her boyfriend from her childhood summer camp.
Her scheming attempts to win him back, and earn with him her only perceived chance at happiness, are heartfelt, hilarious and always accompanied by a musical number that falls somewhere between Sondheim and a fever dream.
Of course, the music was central to the April 6 performance, and the high-energy performances felt even more powerful in front of a live audience.
It’d be impossible to describe all of the incredible moments from the show within the limitations of this article, but I’ve compiled a couple of my favorite moments below.
First of all, Rachel Bloom was an amazing emcee, never afraid to riff on an audience member or toss out an impromptu joke. She opened the show by announcing that Donald Trump was in the audience.
After a moment, she laughed — to the audience’s obvious relief — and asked how funny it would be if Trump was a fan of a show that promotes diversity and body positivity.
Trump also got a shout-out when Pete Gardner, who plays Darryl Whitefeather, sang the song “I Love My Daughter (But Not in a Creepy Way).”
Later, Vincent Rodriguez III, who portrays the titular character’s ex-boyfriend, sang “I’ve Got My Head in the Clouds,” a song about the influence of religion; when he mentioned the Holy Ghost, another cast member danced out from backstage wearing a sheet with holes for eyes because, “that’s what you think the [Holy Ghost] looks like.”
About an hour into the show, Bloom announced that they were about to begin the final song of the evening. As the audience complained, she explained the concept of an encore to the audience, saying that she, like most theater kids, had never heard of one before.
After comparing the experience to trying to revive Tinkerbell, she sweetened the pot by threatening to bring a fairy onstage and break her neck if we didn’t cheer loud enough.
And finally, although it isn’t exactly a funny story, every single time that actress Donna Lynne Champlin, who plays Rebecca’s best friend Paula Proctor, walked onto the stage, the audience spent a solid three minutes cheering; she’s that amazing.
When she sang the opening note of “Face Your Fears,” the audience literally lost their minds, cheering for 90 seconds because her voice is beautiful and we are not worthy of it.
I can barely put into words how much I enjoyed every second of the performance. I’ve been a fan of Bloom’s music since middle school and have religiously followed Crazy Ex-Girlfriend since the first episode.
It was practically impossible for my expectations to not be met, but the entire cast (Bloom, Champlin, Gardner, Rodriguez III, Gabrielle Ruiz, and Scott Michael Foster) all did a truly incredible job, and every single song was a delight.
Even more impressive: They didn’t even perform some of the best songs from the show. In a perfect world, they’d have included “Settle for Me” and “I Give Good Parent” but the evening was still a resounding success.
Unfortunately, the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Live tour has moved on, but if anything that I’ve written above sounds even remotely interesting, then I highly encourage you to watch the show. Again, it’s all on Netflix, and there’s plenty of time to binge every episode before the fourth season starts airing in the fall.